I LIVE IN YOUR
Goosebumps - 61
(An Undead Scan v1.5)
“‘Don’t do that. You’ll poke your eye out.’ That’s what my mom says. No matter what I’m doing.”
I told that to my friend Jeremy Goodman as we trotted to the playground behind our school.
Jeremy laughed. “Your mom really says that, Marco?”
I nodded and picked up the pace, keeping side by side with Jeremy as we crossed Fulton Street.
“Last night, I had a lot of homework,” I told him. “I took out three new pencils and started to
sharpen them. My mom came into the room and said, ‘Don’t do that. You’ll poke your eye out.’”
Jeremy laughed again. “What does she want you to use? Crayons?”
I didn’t laugh. It wasn’t funny to me. I’m twelve years old, and my mom treats me like some kind
She’s always warning me about everything I do.
“Don’t climb that tree. You’ll break your neck.”
“Don’t fill the bathtub so full. You’ll drown.”
“Don’t eat so fast. You’ll choke.”
She has a warning about everything! I keep expecting her to say, “Marco, don’t breathe so much.
You’ll break your nose!”
She drives me crazy. She constantly thinks up new ways I might hurt myself or do some kind of
“Sit up straight or your spine will curve.”
“Don’t make ugly faces. Your face will freeze, and you’ll always look like that.”
“Don’t pick your nose. Your finger will get stuck.”
She’s also the world’s expert on germs. According to Mom, everything you touch or see will give
“Don’t hug the dog. It has germs.”
“Don’t take a bite of Jeremy’s candy bar. Germs.”
“Don’t put your hands in your pockets. Germs.”
Mom is always on guard duty. Always alert. Always ready to step in and warn me about
It makes my life a little hard.
She doesn’t like for me to play softball with my friends. She’s sure I’ll break my leg. That’s if I’m
lucky. If I’m unlucky, I’ll break every bone in my body.
Do you know how hard it would be to break every bone in your body?
My mom is the only person in the world who thinks people do it every day of the week!
That’s why I had to sneak out of the house to go play softball at the playground with Jeremy and
some other kids from my school.
It was a warm, sunny day. The green lawns along Fulton Street all glowed in the sunlight. The air
smelled fresh and sweet.
It felt so good to be jogging down the sidewalk with Jeremy, looking forward to playing a game,
laughing and spending time with friends.
School had let out early because of some kind of teachers’ meeting. I hurried home and dropped
off my backpack.
The house was empty, except for Tyler, my dog. He’s part cocker spaniel, part we-don’t-knowwhat.
Tyler was happy to see me. He licked my face.
Mom doesn’t like it when I let Tyler lick my face. You know why. The terrible “G” word.
Mom was out shopping or something. I guess she forgot that I’d be home early.
Such a lucky break. I changed into a ragged pair of jeans and a T-shirt. Then I grabbed my
baseball glove and hurried out to meet Jeremy before Mom returned home.
“Marco, what would your mom do if she caught you playing softball?” Jeremy asked.
“Warn me,” I replied. “She never punishes me or anything. She just warns me.”
“My parents never warn me about anything,” Jeremy said.
“That’s because you’re perfect!” I teased.
Jeremy slugged me on the arm.
Actually, I wasn’t teasing. Jeremy is perfect. He gets all A’s in school. He’s good at sports. He
takes care of his little sister. He almost never gets in trouble.
He doesn’t touch anything with germs.
We passed the bus stop and crossed Fairchild Avenue. Our school came into view. It’s a long,
one-story building that stretches in a straight line for nearly a whole block.
The walls of the school are painted bright yellow. As yellow as an egg yolk. Mom says they
discuss the color a lot at Parent Association meetings. No one likes it.
Jeremy and I jogged through the teachers’ parking lot to the playground behind the building. The
softball diamond stood behind the row of swings.
A bunch of kids were already there. I recognized Gwynnie Evans and Leo Murphy.
The Franklin twins were arguing as usual, standing nose to nose, screaming at each other. They’re
weird guys. You can never put them on the same team.
“You can start now!” Jeremy shouted. “The all-stars are here!”
He took off across the grass. Leo and some of the other kids called out to us.
I slowed to a walk, breathing hard. Jeremy is a lot better athlete than I am.
Gwynnie stood on the pitching mound, swinging two bats and talking to Lauren Blank. Gwynnie is
always trying to prove that she’s better in sports than any of the boys.
She’s big and strong. She’s at least half a foot taller than me, and she’s got much bigger shoulders.
She’s always pushing kids around and acting tough.
No one likes her. But we always want her on our team because she can hit the ball a mile. And if
some kind of argument breaks out, Gwynnie always wins it because she can yell the loudest.
“Let’s get started,” Jeremy declared.
“Who’s choosing up sides?” I asked. “Who are the captains?”
Leo pointed. “Gwynnie and Lauren.”
I took off running to the pitcher’s mound. Gwynnie dropped one of the bats to the ground. She had
the other one in her grip.
I guess she didn’t see me.
As I ran up to her, she pulled the bat back—and swung it with all her might.
I saw the bat move.
But I didn’t have time to duck or move out of the way.
The bat made a loud THUNK as it slammed into the side of my head.
At first, I didn’t feel a thing.
The ground tilted up.
But I still didn’t feel anything.
Then the pain exploded in my head.
Exploded… exploded… exploded.
Everything flashed bright red.
So bright, I had to shut my eyes.
I heard myself shrieking. Neighing like a horse. A shrill wail I never heard before.
And then the ground flew up to swallow me.
I woke up staring at the ceiling.
A blue ceiling light—blue as the sky—blurred then sharpened, blurred then sharpened above me.
Mom’s face floated into view.
I blinked once. Twice. I knew I was home.
Mom’s eyes were red and wet. She had her black hair pulled back tightly. But several strands had
fallen loose and hung down her forehead.
Her chin trembled. “Marco—?”
My head ached. Everything ached.
I’ve done it, I thought. I’ve broken every bone in my body.
“Marco—?” Mom repeated in a whisper. “Are you waking up, dear?”
“Huh?” I groaned again.
Something was sitting on my head. Weighing me down.
Tyler? Why was the dog sitting on my head?
My arms ached as I slowly raised my hands to my head.
And felt a bandage. A heavy bandage.
I lowered my hands. The room began to spin. I gripped the couch cushions, holding on for dear
I stared up at the blue ceiling light until it came into focus. The den. I was lying on the soft leather
couch in the den.
Mom floated into view again, her chin still trembling. She pulled a blanket up nearly to my chin.
“Marco? You’re awake?” she repeated. “How do you feel?”
“Great,” I muttered.
Talking made my throat hurt.
She stared down at me. “Can you see me, dear? It’s me. Your mom.”
“Yeah. I can see,” I whispered.
She wiped one eye with a tissue. Then she stared at me some more.
“I can see fine,” I told her.
She patted my chest over the blanket. “That’s good, dear.”
I groaned in reply.
Please don’t say, I told you so! I thought. I crossed my fingers, even though it hurt to cross them.
And I prayed. Please don’t say I told you so.
Mom’s expression changed. She frowned at me. “I told you not to play baseball,” she said.
“It wasn’t baseball,” I choked out. “It was soft-ball.”
“I told you not to play,” Mom said sternly. “But you didn’t listen to me. And now you’ve cracked
your head open like an eggshell.”
“Huh?” I gasped. “Cracked it open? Mom, will I be okay?”
She didn’t answer.
“Will I?” I demanded. “Tell me the truth. What did the doctor say, Mom? Will I be okay?”
“Of course,” she replied. Her face floated over me for a second, then slid out of view.
I didn’t like the way she said it. It sounded false. Too cheerful.
“Tell me the truth,” I insisted. “Am I really going to be okay?”
I lifted my head. Sharp pain shot down the back of my neck.
Mom had vanished from the room. I could hear her putting plates away in the kitchen.
I tried calling her. But my voice came out in a hoarse whisper.
I lowered my head slowly to the couch cushion and shut my eyes.
I guess I drifted off to sleep. The ringing phone woke me up.
I blinked up at the blue ceiling light, forcing it to come into focus. The phone rang and rang. I
waited for Mom to pick it up. But she didn’t answer it.
Did she go out and leave me all alone? I wondered. She wouldn’t do that. Where is she?
Groaning, I rolled onto my side and grabbed the phone off the coffee table. I raised it to my ear.
I banged it too hard against the bandage over my head. The side of my head throbbed with pain.
“Hello?” I croaked.
I heard breathing on the other end. And then a voice I didn’t recognize said, “I hope you’re okay,
“Who—who is this?” I stammered. I shut my eyes tight, trying to push away the pain of my
“I hope you’re okay,” the voice repeated. A boy’s voice. “I don’t want anything bad to happen to
“Huh? You don’t?” I murmured. “Uh… thanks.” I kept my eyes shut. The pain pulsed at my
temples. It was hard to hold the phone over the heavy bandage.
“Who is this?” I demanded again.
“I don’t want anything bad to happen to you,” the boy said again. “Because you’re going to take
care of me from now on.”
“Excuse me?” I choked out. “I don’t understand.”
Silence at the other end.
I took a deep breath. I decided to ask the question one more time. “Who is this?”
“It’s me,” the voice replied. “Keith.”
“I—I don’t know you,” I stammered.
“You should,” the boy replied softly. “You should know me, Marco. I live in your basement.”
Did I hang up? Or did Keith hang up?
I’m not sure. I felt very confused, very upset.
Keith hadn’t called to be friendly. I knew he was trying to scare me.
Was it actually a friend of mine? Someone from school playing a joke? It wasn’t a very funny
I stared at the ceiling, feeling groggy and weak. I don’t know how much time passed.
I kept picturing Gwynnie standing on the pitcher’s mound. I saw her swinging two bats. Then one.
I saw the bat whirling toward my head.
“Ohhh.” I uttered a low moan and forced the picture from my mind.
“How are you doing, Marco?” a voice whispered.
I gazed up at Mom. She had brushed her hair and put on lipstick. She had changed into a bright
green T-shirt and a dark skirt.
“Feeling better?” she asked. “I brought you a bowl of cereal. You should try eating something. If
you don’t eat, acid will burn a hole in your stomach.”
“Mom—the phone,” I started groggily. “It rang and—”
“Yes, I know,” she interrupted. “It was Jeremy. He wanted to know if he could come over to see
She nodded. “I told him you weren’t quite ready for visitors. I said he could probably come
“I didn’t mean that call,” I said. I pulled myself up onto my elbows. My head didn’t throb as
badly. The room didn’t spin and tilt.
I was starting to feel a little stronger.
“I got another call,” I told her. “You didn’t pick up, so I answered it.”
“But, Marco—” Mom started.
“It was from a strange boy,” I continued. “It was a very weird call. He said his name was Keith.
And he said he lived in our basement.”
Mom’s expression changed. She lowered her eyes. “Oh, wow,” she murmured.
“It was kind of a frightening call,” I said. “Why would somebody call and say they lived in our
Mom placed a cool hand on my hot forehead. “I—I’m a little worried about you, Marco,” she said
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“You have to take things slowly,” she replied. “You didn’t listen to my warnings. And you had a
very bad hit on the head.”
“But, Mom, that phone call I got—”
Her chin quivered again. “You’re not thinking clearly, Marco,” she said.
“Why? Why do you say that?” I demanded.
She narrowed her eyes at me. “There’s no phone in this room,” she said.
I woke up early the next morning. I sat up, feeling alert. Refreshed. Before I even stood up, I knew I
was a lot better.
My head didn’t throb. My muscles didn’t ache.
I took a long shower. The water felt so crisp and sharp on my skin.
I was drying myself when I realized I no longer had the bandage on my head. I spotted it on the
floor by my bed. I guessed it had fallen off during the night.
Stepping up to the medicine chest mirror, I checked out the damage. Not too bad. I had an ugly
purple bruise on my right temple. It had swelled up like a giant mosquito bite.
But the rest of my head had its normal shape.
I winked at myself. My eyes seemed sharp and clear.
I let out a loud cheer. My throat didn’t hurt. I was so happy to be feeling strong again.
I pulled on a pair of baggy jeans and a sweatshirt. And I hurried down to the kitchen for breakfast.
“Don’t run in the kitchen like that,” Mom warned. “You’ll bang into the counter and break your
That was a new one!
“I’m starving!” I cried. I poured myself a big bowl of my favorite cereal combo—Frosted Flakes
and Corn Pops, all mixed together. I grabbed a spoon and began gobbling hungrily.
“Don’t eat cereal so fast,” Mom warned. “It’ll clog your stomach pipes.”
I’d heard that one before.
“Guess you’re feeling better,” Mom said. She smiled at me and squeezed my hand.
I nodded. “I feel fine,” I told her. “What day is it?”
“Saturday,” she replied. Her smile faded. “I’m glad you’re feeling better. But I want you to stay in
“You always want me to stay in,” I grumbled.
“You’re still weak,” she said. “You might faint and hit your head on the sidewalk.”
“I’ll stay in,” I promised.
A loud THUD THUD made me jump. “What was that?” I yelped.
Mom stood up. She studied me. “It’s just someone knocking on the door,” she said. “See? You’re
still not yourself, Marco.”
“I said I won’t go out,” I groaned.
Jeremy came into the kitchen. He stopped halfway across the room and stared at me. “Are you
alive?” he asked.
I pinched my arm. “Yeah,” I told him.
“Don’t pinch yourself. You’ll make a bruise,” Mom warned.
Jeremy didn’t come any closer. He stood in the middle of the kitchen and stared at me.
“Why don’t you sit down while I finish my cereal?” I asked him. “It’s okay to come over here.
You won’t catch what I’ve got.”
“Did you eat breakfast?” Mom asked Jeremy. “Never go out on an empty stomach. Your whole
system will stop working.”
Jeremy walked slowly to the table. “I just keep picturing Gwynnie swinging that bat,” he said. He
swallowed hard. “It was so horrible. I saw the whole thing.”
He dropped into the chair next to me and sighed. “I thought she knocked your head off, Marco. I
really did. I was sick. I thought I was going to heave up my lunch on the grass.”
“Don’t talk about heaving at the breakfast table,” Mom scolded. She started for the door. “I have
to leave for a short while, Marco. Remember your promise. Don’t go out.”
“I remember,” I muttered.
“And take it easy,” she instructed. “Just sit and talk. Don’t do anything else. You’ll pass out.”
When she disappeared, Jeremy turned to me. “You really okay?” he asked.
I nodded. “Yeah. I don’t feel bad at all.” I finished the last of the cereal and poured myself a glass
of orange juice. “I feel a lot better than yesterday,” I declared.
“Gwynnie called me last night,” Jeremy said. “She wanted to know how you were doing. She was
really messed up. You know. About hitting you.”
I snickered. “You mean she didn’t brag about what a great swing she has?”
“No way!” Jeremy insisted.
“Well, it wasn’t her fault,” I said. “I ran right into her bat. It was a real smooth move.”
We talked about the accident for a while longer. Then I asked Jeremy if he wanted to feel the
purple bump on the side of my head.
“Hey—no way!” he cried, making a sick face.
I knew that would gross him out.
He helped me put away the breakfast stuff. “What do you want to do?” I asked him.
“Your mom said you can’t go out,” Jeremy reminded me.
“So we’ll stay in,” I replied.
“Want to play pool?” he suggested.
We have a pool table in our basement. It’s a regulation-size table, and there isn’t quite enough
room for it. You have to tilt your pool cue up and play around the concrete beams.
“Yeah. I’ll play you,” I agreed. He’s a much better pool player than I am. But sometimes I get
lucky and beat him.
I finished shoving the breakfast dishes into the dishwasher. Then I led the way to the basement
I reached for the doorknob—then stopped.
I live in your basement.
I remembered the boy’s voice on the phone. So flat and cold.
You’re going to take care of me from now on…. I live in your basement.
His words came back to me. They made me hesitate at the door.
But I only imagined that call, I told myself.
There was no boy. No voice. No Keith.
I imagined it because I got hit on the head.
I pulled open the door. I gazed down the basement steps.
Then, gripping the banister, I led the way down.
As soon as I reached the basement, I ran around turning on all the lights. Even in the laundry room.
Jeremy picked up a pool cue and began to chalk the tip. “What is your problem, Marco?” he
called. “Are we going to play or not?”
“I like a lot of light,” I told him.
I peeked behind the big stack of cartons near the furnace. Then I squeezed behind the furnace to
see if anyone was living back there.
Nothing but a tall mountain of dust. I was beginning to feel a little silly.
Why would anyone be living in my basement? The whole idea was crazy.
I trotted over to the pool table and picked out a cue. Then Jeremy and I began to play.
He sank the three ball in a side pocket. On his next shot, balls clattered all over the table. But
nothing dropped in.
My turn. I had to squeeze between the table and a concrete pole and tilt the cue up toward the
ceiling. Not an easy shot.
I missed everything.
“Did you ever play pool with Gwynnie?” Jeremy asked, moving around the table to find his best
“No. Never,” I told him. “Is she any good?”
He snickered. “She plays pool the way she plays softball. She hits the balls so hard, she cracks
them. A bunch of us were playing once at the Youth Center. Gwynnie sent a ball flying off the table,
and it sailed out the window!”
“Maybe she thinks she has to hit a home run!” I joked.
We both laughed. Laughing made the side of my head hurt.
Thinking about Gwynnie made my head hurt!
Jeremy bounced the seven ball into the eight ball. The eight ball almost dropped into a corner
pocket. “That was close!” He sighed.
Maybe you don’t know the rules of pool. If the eight ball goes in, you lose.
That’s the only way I ever beat Jeremy.
“The Franklin twins were playing at the Youth Center too,” Jeremy continued. “And they got into
I rolled my eyes. “So what else is new?”
“It was so dumb,” Jeremy said. “They were arguing over which is the six ball and which is the
nine ball. They started fencing with their pool cues. And then they smeared blue chalk all over each
“Nice,” I murmured. I hit the twelve ball a solid shot, but it didn’t go in. “Why do you think the
Franklin twins fight all the time?” I asked.
Jeremy thought about it for a moment. “Because they’re twins,” he said finally. “Even they can’t
tell each other apart. And so they have to prove they’re different from each other.”
“That’s very deep,” I replied. I wanted to think about that.
But a strange sound made me spin away from the table.
A scratching sound. Very close.
A scratch. Then a BUMP.
“Did you hear that?” I whispered to Jeremy.
He nodded. “Yes.” He pointed to the stairs.
We have a large pantry cabinet under the stairwell. The noises were coming from inside the
We both stared at the wooden cabinet door.
“There’s someone in there,” I muttered. “Someone trying to get out.”
Jeremy narrowed his eyes at me. “Why would someone be hiding in your cabinet?”
I made my way over to the cabinet door. “Who’s in there?” I called.
A scraping sound. Someone right behind the door.
“Who is it?” I repeated.
I grabbed the cabinet door. Took a deep breath. Tugged it open.
And screamed as a creature leaped out at me.
“A squirrel!” Jeremy cried.
Yes. A fat gray squirrel jumped from the closet—onto my leg.
It fell off. Hit the floor, its eyes wild, its legs thrashing the air. Sliding on the linoleum, it took off
across the basement.
“How did a squirrel get in there?” Jeremy asked.
I was still too startled to reply. I watched the squirrel try to climb one of the concrete beams. It
slipped off, turned, and ran toward the laundry room.
I finally found my voice. “We’ve got to get it out of here!” I shrieked. “Mom freaks out when
animals get in the house. You know. They have germs.”
The squirrel was staring back at us from the laundry room door. “Get him!” I cried.
Jeremy and I chased after the squirrel.
It darted around the laundry room. Behind the dryer. Nowhere to run now.
“I’ve got it!” I shrieked. I stretched out my hands and made a wild dive.
But the squirrel scampered right over my back. Dodged past Jeremy. And raced back into the
My head started to throb. I was breathing hard.
I darted out of the laundry room. The squirrel ran under the pool table, its bushy tail standing
I checked to make sure both basement windows were open. Then I grabbed an old fishing net from
against the wall.
The frightened animal stopped running and turned back to Jeremy and me. Its whole body
trembled. Its little black eyes pleaded with us.
“Here, squirrel! Here, squirrel!” I called to it, waving the net. “We’re not going to hurt you.”
I swiped the net at it. Missed.
The squirrel took off. Jeremy dove for it. He missed too.
As we watched helplessly, the squirrel jumped onto the pile of cartons by the furnace. Climbed to
the top. And leaped out of the basement window.
“Yesssss!” Jeremy and I both cheered and slapped each other a high five.
“Victory over all squirrels!” Jeremy boomed in his deepest voice.
I didn’t know what that was supposed to mean. But we both burst out laughing.
Mom’s voice from the top of the stairs cut our laughter short. “What’s going on down there?” she
“Nothing,” I replied quickly. “Just playing pool.”
“Marco—be careful with those pool sticks,” she shouted. “You’ll poke your eye out.”
Jeremy and I played a few games. He beat me easily each time. But we had fun. And we didn’t poke
out any eyes.
Mom made us sandwiches and chicken noodle soup for lunch. She kept warning us to blow on the
soup or else we’d burn the skin off our tongues.
After lunch, I started to feel tired. So Jeremy went home.
“Go up to your room and watch TV or take a nap,” Mom advised. “I warned you not to overdo it.”
“I didn’t overdo it,” I grumbled. But I went upstairs and took a long nap.
Too long. Late that night, I couldn’t get to sleep. I felt wide awake.
I read for a while. Then I did a little channel surfing, but I didn’t find anything good to watch.
I glanced at my bed table clock. A few minutes after midnight.
My stomach growled. Maybe I need a midnight snack, I decided.
I clicked on the hall light and made my way downstairs to the kitchen. But I didn’t get as far as the
kitchen. To my surprise, the basement door stood open.
“Weird,” I muttered. Mom always keeps that door closed. She’s a nut about keeping doors shut.
I walked over to the door. And started to push it closed.
But I stopped when I heard a scraping sound down there.
I poked my head into the opening and peered down into the darkness. “Who—who’s down there?”
I heard more scraping steps.
And then a boy’s voice called up. “It’s me. Keith. Don’t you remember? I live down here.”
“No! You don’t exist!”
The words burst from my mouth. My cry sounded shrill and frightened.
I heard more footsteps on the linoleum floor. Then the basement light flashed on.
And I stared down at—Mom!
“Huh?” I gasped.
“Marco—why aren’t you asleep?” she demanded, frowning up at me, hands at her waist.
“Uh… because I’m awake,” I replied. “Mom, what are you doing down there?”
“Laundry,” she said. “I couldn’t sleep, either. So I decided to do laundry. You know. It always
“Mom—come upstairs. Now!” I cried. “There’s someone down there with you!”
She squinted up at me. Tilted her head, examining me with her eyes. “What do you mean?” she
“Hurry!” I insisted. “That boy. He talked to me again. He’s down there, Mom. He says he lives
“Marco, I’m worried about you,” Mom said calmly. She started up the stairs, her eyes locked on
me. “You’re not making any sense, dear.”
“But I am!” I insisted. “I heard him, Mom. He talked to me—just now! He’s down there! Really!”
“It’s too late to call Dr. Bailey,” she fretted. She stepped up beside me and pressed her palm
against my forehead. “No fever.”
“Mom—I’m not imagining it!” I wailed.
“Tomorrow is Sunday,” she said. “I want you to rest all day. Then we’ll see if you are ready to go
back to school on Monday.”
“But, Mom—” I started. “I—”
The boy’s voice interrupted me from downstairs. “Marco,” he called, “listen to your mother.”
“Mom—did you hear that?” I shrieked.
“Hear what?” Mom demanded, eyeing me sharply.
“The boy—” I started. But I didn’t finish. Someone bumped me hard from behind.
I stumbled toward the basement—and nearly fell down the stairs.
“Whoa—!” I let out a cry and spun around.
Tyler wagged his tail at me. He shuffled forward and bumped me again. He does that all the time.
Just to be friendly, I guess.
“You stupid dog!” I shrieked. “You nearly killed me!”
Tyler stopped wagging. He stared up at me with his big brown eyes.
“Don’t yell at the dog,” Mom scolded. “You’re really not doing well, Marco. Let’s tuck you in,
okay? You are definitely overtired.”
I decided not to argue. What was the point?
I glanced down into the basement, hoping to catch a glimpse of the boy. But I saw only darkness.
Where was he? Where was he hiding?
I knew I hadn’t imagined him. I knew I had really heard him.
So what was going on?
Mom let me go to school on Monday. The way things turned out, I wished she had kept me home.
I felt fine. The bump on my head was still purple. But it had shrunk to about the size of a quarter.
When I went into the school building, everyone ran up to me. The Franklin twins were arguing
about which backpack was whose. They are always getting their stuff mixed up.
But when they saw me, they dropped both backpacks and hurried over.
“Marco—how are you?”
“Are you okay?”
“Let me see your bruise.”
“Wow. That’s real ugly!”
“Does it hurt?”
“I can’t believe you’re back!”
“You must have a really hard head!”
Everyone laughed and joked and made a big fuss over me. I enjoyed being the center of attention
for once. Usually, no one pays any attention to me at all!
I was feeling pretty good about things.
Until the bell rang and Miss Mosely asked me to come up to the front of the class. “I think we’re
all glad to see you in school today, Marco,” she said.
Jeremy started clapping, and then everyone else clapped. Even Gwynnie, who sits right in front of
“Since we’ve been studying health care,” Miss Mosely continued, “I want you to tell everyone
what it was like in the hospital.”
I stared at her. My brain did a flip-flop. My mouth dropped open.
Had I been in the hospital?
“What was your room like in the hospital?” Miss Mosely asked. “What kind of doctor examined
you? What did the doctor look for?”
I blinked. Thinking hard. Trying to remember.
“Tell us everything,” Miss Mosely insisted. She crossed her arms and stared at me through her
round, black-framed eyeglasses, waiting for me to talk.
“I—I don’t remember,” I stammered.
One of the Franklin twins laughed. A few kids whispered to each other.
“Well, what do you remember about the hospital, Marco?” Miss Mosely asked, speaking slowly
and clearly as if talking to a three-year-old.
“I don’t remember anything. Nothing at all!” I blurted out.
Gwynnie leaned forward so that she practically hung over Miss Mosely’s desk. “Maybe I should
hit him on the head again,” she said. “You know. To help bring back his memory.”
A few kids laughed.
Miss Mosely frowned at Gwynnie. “That’s a terrible thing to say. It’s not a joke. Memory loss
from a hit on the head can be very serious.”
Gwynnie shrugged her big shoulders. “Just kidding,” she muttered. “Can’t anyone take a joke?”
Meanwhile, I was still standing up there in front of everyone. Feeling awkward and confused.
Why didn’t I remember the hospital? The first thing I remembered, I was lying on the den couch at
Miss Mosely motioned for me to sit down. “We’re glad you’re okay, Marco,” she said. “And
don’t worry about the things you forgot. Your memory will come back.”
Up till then, I didn’t know it had left. I dropped into my seat, feeling weak and shaken.
The rest of the day was a blur.
I was still thinking hard that afternoon as I started walking home. Still trying to remember
something about the hospital.
I saw some kids starting a softball game on the playground diamond. Thinking about softball gave
me a chill.
I started to turn away—but someone caught my eye.
She came chasing after me across the grass. She carried a baseball bat, raised high over her head.
She had a grim, determined look on her face.
“Marco! Hey—Marco!” she called, waving the bat menacingly.
She’s going to hit me again, I knew.
“No—!” I let out a cry. And gaped at her in horror.
Gwynnie had a fierce look on her face. She swung the bat over her head again.
I froze. My legs refused to move.
With a loud cry, I finally managed to turn away. And I started to run.
I hurtled across the street without checking for traffic. What is her problem? Is she crazy? I asked
myself. Why is she doing this?
Did Gwynnie really think she could bring back my memory with a smack on the head?
I turned the corner, breathing hard, the backpack bouncing on my shoulders. Glancing back, I saw
her on the other side of the street. Two school buses rumbled by, forcing her to wait.
I lowered my head, shifted the backpack, and forced myself to pick up speed.
By the time I reached home, my heart pounded so hard it hurt. And the bump on my head throbbed
I dove into the house and slammed the door behind me. Then I pressed my back against the door
and struggled to catch my breath.
“Marco? Is that you?” Mom called from the den.
Still gasping for breath, I tried to choke out an answer. But only a low croaking sound escaped my
Mom appeared in the living room doorway. She narrowed her eyes, studying me. “How was your
first day back?”
“Okay,” I managed to murmur.
“You didn’t overdo it—did you?” she demanded. “Why do you look so pale? Did you take gym,
Marco? I gave you a note to excuse you from gym—remember?”
“We… didn’t… have… gym,” I gasped.
Mom was always giving me notes to excuse me from gym. She was sure I’d poke my eye out or
break every bone in my body in gym class.
“Why are you so out of breath?” she asked, crossing the room tome. She placed a hand on my
forehead. “You’re sweating. Didn’t I warn you about sweating? It’ll give you a cold.”
“Really. I’m fine,” I said, starting to feel normal again. I slipped out from under her hand and
peeked out the front window.
Had Gwynnie chased me all the way home?
I didn’t see her out there.
“I felt okay today,” I told her. “No problem.”
I wanted to ask her about the hospital. But I didn’t want her to know that I’d lost my memory. It
would only cause a lot more trouble.
So I didn’t say anything about it. Instead, I made my way to the stairs. “I’ve got a lot of homework
to catch up on,” I told her. “I’ll be up in my room.”
“Do you want a snack?” she called after me. “You shouldn’t do homework on an empty stomach.”
“No thanks,” I replied. I climbed the stairs and hurried down the hall.
I stopped in the doorway.
And let out a startled cry when I saw a boy sitting on my bed.
He looked about my age. He had wavy black hair around a thin, serious face. He gazed at me with
round dark eyes. Sad eyes. He wore black denim jeans and a loose-fitting plaid flannel shirt.
He didn’t appear at all surprised to see me.
“Who—who are you?” I stammered.
“It’s me. Keith,” he replied softly. “I told you. I live in your basement.”
I didn’t say anything. My mind went blank. I stared at the boy from out in the hall.
My knees suddenly felt weak and trembly. I grabbed the sides of the doorframe to keep from
A cruel smile spread slowly over Keith’s face. His dark eyes flashed. “Come in. I thought we
should get to know each other,” he said. “Since you are going to take care of me from now on.”
I swallowed hard.
I stood there frozen for a long moment.
And then I screamed, “No! No way!”
I pulled the bedroom door shut. It had a key and a lock, which we never use.
My hand trembled as I grabbed the key and turned it.
I tested the door.
Yes! I had locked Keith in. He was trapped inside my bedroom.
Now Mom would see him. Now she would have to believe me.
“Mom!” I shouted. “Come up here! Hurry!”
Had she gone out?
No. She was probably in the kitchen starting dinner.
I tested the door again, making sure it was locked tight. Then I plunged down the stairs, calling to
“Marco? What on earth—?” She came running from the kitchen, carrying an onion and a knife.
“Come upstairs! Hurry!” I cried. “I’ve caught him! He’s in my room!”
“Caught who?” She eyed me suspiciously. “Who is in your room?”
“The boy!” I shouted. I grabbed her by the arm and started to pull her up the stairs. “Keith. The
boy who lives in the basement.”
“Marco—wait.” Mom tugged her arm free. “Please don’t start that again. You know how worried
I get when you start talking crazy.”
“I’m not crazy!” I wailed.
I grabbed her arm again. The onion fell out of her hand and bounced across the floor.
“Stop pulling me. I’m coming,” she snapped. “You’re acting very strange, Marco. I don’t like this
one bit. Dr. Bailey said that if you started acting in a weird manner, I should call him immediately and
“Mom—just don’t talk!” I begged. “Don’t say another word. Please—follow me. He’s in my
room. I locked him in. You’ll see him with your own eyes. Then you’ll know I’m not crazy.”
She grumbled, but she followed me up the stairs.
I stopped outside my room and reached for the key. My heart pounded so hard, I thought my chest
might explode. My head started to throb.
I turned the key. And pushed open my bedroom door.
“There!” I declared, pointing to my bed.
Mom and I both let out cries of surprise.
Tyler sat staring at us from the bed.
He panted loudly. His tongue hung out. When he saw us, his tail started to wag.
Mom placed a firm hand on my shoulder. “Go lie down on that bed, Marco,” she ordered. “I’m
calling the doctor right now.”
“No. Wait,” I insisted. I ducked out from under her grip.
I dropped to the floor and peered under the bed. “Keith—where are you?”
Not under there.
I climbed to my feet, ran across the room, and tugged open the closet door. “Keith—?”
I spun around. Where else could he be hiding?
Tyler leaped off the bed and bounded from the room.
“That poor dog doesn’t like being locked up,” Mom fretted.
“I didn’t lock him in here!” I shouted. “I locked Keith in.”
She tsk-tsked. “You’re going to be fine, Marco. Really you are.” Her voice trembled.
It was easy to figure out what she really meant: That hit on the head scrambled your brains,
Marco. You’re acting like a total nutcase!
I took a deep breath and tried to explain again. “Mom, I don’t know how Tyler got in here. But I
do know there was a boy in my room. And I locked him in.”
“I’m going to phone Dr. Bailey right now,” Mom replied. “But I don’t want you to worry.
Everything will be okay.” She hurried from the room.
Everything will be okay. Mom’s words lingered in my mind.
As usual, she was wrong.
Dr. Bailey’s waiting room was all blue and green. A huge fish tank against one wall bubbled quietly.
The blue and green chairs, blue and green carpet, and blue and green walls made me feel as if I were
in a fish tank too!
Mom and I checked in with the woman behind the desk. Then we sat down on a hard plastic couch
against the wall.
On the plastic chairs across from us, a girl sat with her father. The girl was about seven or eight.
Every few seconds, she hiccupped loudly. Her whole body shook with each hiccup.
“She’s been doing that for two weeks,” her father explained, shaking his head.
“Dad,” the girl snapped, “it’s only been HIC ten days.”
“Has she been eating eggs?” Mom asked the father. “Too many eggs can give you the hiccups.”
The man stared at Mom.
“It’s the egg whites,” Mom continued. “They’re too slippery. You can’t digest them.”
The man stared at Mom some more. Finally he murmured, “I don’t think it was eggs.”
The girl hiccupped and shook.
The fish tank bubbled.
I felt as if I were swimming with the fish. Floating through thick blue water.
But I can’t breathe underwater! I told myself.
The girl hiccupped again.
The sound was starting to drive me crazy. I wanted to go home. I turned to Mom, who had picked
up a magazine and was thumbing through it. “Can we go?” I pleaded. “I’m okay.”
She shook her head. “Dr. Bailey just wants to look at you,” she replied, keeping her eyes on the
magazine. “A hit on the head is serious. You only have one head, you know.”
The girl hiccupped.
“Try holding your breath,” her father instructed her.
“I’ve been holding it for ten days!” she grumbled.
Several hundred hiccups later, the nurse led Mom and me into Dr. Bailey’s office. As I stepped
inside, I saw that his office was blue and green too.
The doctor was a cheerful, chubby man. He had a round face, a shiny, bald head, and he wore a
bow tie under his green lab coat. The bow tie bobbed up and down on his Adam’s apple when he
He came around the desk to shake hands with me. Then he used his thumbs to pull up my eyelids
so that he could examine my eyes.
“Hmmm… looks okay,” he murmured.
He ran his thumb gently over the bump on my head. “Does that hurt, Marco?”
“A little,” I confessed.
“It’s healing nicely,” he told Mom. “Very nicely indeed. Now what seems to be the problem,
I hesitated. Should I tell him about Keith? If I do, will he think I’m crazy too? Will he send me
back to the hospital or something?
Should I tell him I don’t remember anything about being in the hospital?
Dr. Bailey gazed at me patiently, waiting for me to begin.
Finally, I decided, okay, I’ll tell him everything. He’s a doctor, after all. He will understand.
So I told him I couldn’t remember the hospital. And then I told him about the boy who said he
lived in our basement. And I told him about actually seeing Keith. And locking him in my room. And
The whole story. I told him everything. It felt good to tell it.
Dr. Bailey sat behind his desk and kept his eyes locked on me the whole time. His bow tie
twitched on his Adam’s apple. But he didn’t say a word until I finished.
Then he leaned forward and sighed. “It doesn’t sound too bad,” he said.
“Oh, thank goodness!” Mom exclaimed.
Dr. Bailey scratched his bald head. “But do you know what I would like to do just to make sure
everything is okay?” he asked.
“What?” Mom and I said together.
“I’d like to remove your brain and examine it under a microscope,” Dr. Bailey said.
“Huh?” I gasped. I nearly fell out of my chair.
“It isn’t a difficult operation,” Dr. Bailey said, flashing me a calm, reassuring smile.
“But—but—” I sputtered.
“Once I crack the skull open, the brain slides out easily,” the doctor explained.
“I—I don’t think so,” I protested.
He shrugged. His bow tie hopped up and down on his throat. “I can’t really see the brain clearly
unless I remove it.”
My heart was pounding. My hands were suddenly icy cold. I studied Dr. Bailey’s round face.
“You’re joking—right?” I demanded. “This is some kind of a sick joke?”
Mom nudged me in the side. “Listen to the doctor,” she said. “The doctor knows what he’s talking
about. If he says the brain comes out, it comes out.”
Dr. Bailey leaned farther across the desk. His face loomed so close, I could see tiny beads of
sweat on his forehead. “It won’t hurt much,” he said.
I turned to Mom. “You’re not going to let him do it—are you?” I demanded.
She patted my hand. “Whatever the doctor thinks is best. Dr. Bailey is a very good doctor, Marco.
The doctor nodded. “I’ve removed a lot of brains,” he told me. “I don’t mean to brag, but—”
“Can Mom and I talk about this?” I asked, stalling for time. “Can we come back tomorrow or
something? I feel fine. Really, I do. In fact, I feel excellent!”
Dr. Bailey scratched his bald head again. “That’s a good idea,” he replied to my mom. “Why
don’t you call me tomorrow? We can schedule the de-braining then.”
I jumped up from my chair and darted for the door. I didn’t wait for Mom. I didn’t say good-bye. I
Mom followed me into the waiting room. “Marco, that was really rude of you!” she scolded.
“I’d like to keep my brain,” I replied angrily, and kept walking to the office door. As we passed, I
said good-bye to the girl with hiccups.
“Hic Hic Hic,” she said. I think her problem was getting worse!
“Doctors know what’s best,” Mom said, hurrying across the parking lot after me.
I climbed into the car and crossed my arms over my chest. “I’m perfectly okay, Mom,” I told her
through gritted teeth. “My brain is totally normal. I’ll never see that boy Keith again. He’s gone
forever. I know he is. I’ll never see or hear him again.”
But of course I was wrong.